Let’s see the modern Beijing.
On my third day in Beijing I decide to be focused on most modern part of the town. Well, this is the capital of China: the world fastest growing economy. I’m expecting a bustling downtown. Am I right? Let’s go to check. Of course, some evidences of China’s modernity I’ve seen it in the effective Beijing infrastructure: the shining airport and the fast subway network but I’m curious to walk among huge skyscrapers in order to have that kind of “New York City feeling”. Best place to start my trek into contemporary Beijing seems to be Guomao district and I’m heading there. After two days in the ancient part of Beijing, I’m bit tired and lazy so I’m taking it easy. The short walk to Nanluoguxiang subway station gives me the chance to see some funny things. This district seems to be one of the favourite place by newlyweds for their pictures, I see at least three couples in less than one kilometre. Souvenir shops, beside local gadgets, sell Italian (but not only) football team scarfs and jerseys. Ice creams have cartoons-like shapes with local eager to bite funny rabbit faces. Translations in English are ubiquitous but not always very precise and so I end up taking a yoghurt with fresh truit before jumping in the metro. It’s morning but not rush hour anymore so it is busy but not too much. Passengers load and unload operations are managed by a sort of ‘metro director’ standing on a footboard using a megaphone to give instructions in Chinese but is not so hard to imagine what he/she’s saying. During train travels I can see some video adverts displayed on the tunnel’s walls. Effect reminds of some of early experiment on cinema, the so-called Kinetoscope. I don’t think methodology is still the same but I like to believe it. You can see how it looks in this short video.
And finally I am here in Guomao, the centre of modern Beijing, or at least so it says the guide I’ve read. The metro station is interconnected with one shopping mall or maybe two. It is hard to understand it. It seems they’ve just finished to polish everything all around so it shines. There are only international brands. Nothing local. That’s the globalisation, baby! However, I’m not here to see trendy shops and so eventually I emerge on the surface. Looking above I see the expected skyscrapers. There are also new ones under construction. The area is much less walkable than the hutong district but nevertheless there is some ‘island’ between the buildings where people working in the area can relax, sitting in the many cafes. This new concept of square features some contemporary art, nothing that really impresses me but at least it gives a bit of colour to the otherwise grey urban landscape. Back in the traffic flow again. There is a complex multi layered system of roads with many overpass. In this mess there are many people driving small motorbikes but they wear an armour! Actually it is a protection from the sun. Most popular accessory seems to be big gloves like those ones used in the kitchen. Crossing this unfriendly part I’m heading toward the building with the most interesting shape. It is the new headquarter of CCTV, the Chinese National Television. Architects created something that became already a landmark of new Beijing thanks to its three-dimensional Tetris brick shape. Now I’m a bit hungry so I go again in the sprawling shopping mall. There is a shop of Venchi, famous Italian chocolate brand but I prefer to get something local. In the luxurious food shop located in the basement there are a lot of exotic fruits in line with my wishes. I took some of my favourite ones: Pittaya and Jackfruit. I get out to eat. Meanwhile I notice that here in Beijing, differently from what happens in all European cities, rented bikes can be taken or left in any place without the constraint of predefined stations thanks to an app. There’s actually nothing more to see here so I decide that it’s time to go and to try to see a sight that was so far inaccessible to me…
Finally Tiananmen square.
This time there are no barriers preventing me to access Tienanmen square. It is a very hot day and the enormous square doesn’t offer almost any chance to stay in the shade. Young soldiers standing all day due to the presence in the square of Mao Ze Dong’s Mausoleum have some sort of tent but it doesn’t seem to help so much. The rectangular square, one of the world biggest is marked on the north side by the Chang’an Avenue and by the gate of Heavenly Peace that I’ve visited during my first day in Beijing. Over the gate is hanged the famous portrait of the Great Helmsman. It is an iconic image any of us have seen several times in the TV news. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen journalists reporting about Beijing with that in the background. To be sincere, in a quite disrespectful way, this is what I meant in the title of this post with “old face”. Getting serious again, this is also the place where, in 1989, there was the protest that was lately repressed by the regime. Is China changed since there or not? I would say yes but the history will say. However I can’t say that the square, in the end, is in any way beautiful. Is big, impressive but not beautiful. Red square, for example, is far better. Sun keeps beating down and I’m tired, more because of previous days than because of what I’ve done today. I need to get out from the square and I’m very proud of myself when I find the way understanding a sign in Chinese without need of the english translation. One word, “exit”, learned after three days. At this pace I will know Chinese in… let’s say 10 years 🙂 But at least I started! Before leaving you, here below there is the Beijing photo gallery. I’ve added some new photo.